Sunday, December 16, 2012

Believe...a story of a kid who learned the truth about Santa

We're really into Christmas:
  • I shop early so I can have as close to a full month as possible to feast in the holiday festivities.  
  • The radio is on Christmas music with Delilah 24/7 beginning the day after Thanksgiving.  Ah...Karen Carpenter. Looooong agoooooo, and oh so faaaarrrr awayyyyyyyy...
  • I sing the gospel Christmas songs in my car with the gusto of any church choir singer (at red lights, I've been known to shut my eyes and clap to the beat as well).
  • There are numerous traditions we have created as a family: annual viewing of x-mas cartoons from the 70's, the Winter Lights Festival, each family member choosing a special ornament every year, everything related to the tree and special treats for Christmas.
  • I would holepunch "believe" in a card tucked into the lunch of my older daughter (a la Polar Express), that she would happily clutch all day.
  • There is great "Christmas magic" that my husband speaks of.  The talk increases about Nana, my husband's mother whom we lost several years ago.  Her angel sits on the top of the tree.  Her embroidered drummer boy ornament hangs carefully in just the right spot on the tree. A black and white photo of her and her two sons by her own Christmas tree is dusted off and sits on the bookcase for the season.
  • And then there's Santa...  He always knows what my kids want.  Last year, he knew my little one wanted a pink shirt that said "I heart music", and he found one for her.  That's pretty miraculous and cool (and so are iron-on transfers from Michael's).  He wraps their one special present with brown paper, and he always uses the same special lettering.  

My older daughter is 14, and whole-heartedly believed in Santa until she was about 10!  Now this is an intelligent, well-adjusted, outgoing kid.  Street-smart and savvy as well, but yet, she truly believed in Santa and all the X-mas hoopla.  If you're a parent that went full hog with the Christmas/Santa stuff like we did, you may have wondered exactly when enough is enough.  I don't know if no one told her, or if they did and she just didn't believe them, but when your older child is helping you bake cookies for Santa, and you're discussing where you should leave the milk, part of you feels kind of deceitful and kind of guilty.  Part of you feels sorry for promoting this whole thing and you wonder, gosh - is this harmful to make your pretty big kid think Santa has had several sips of milk and ate all his cookies?  Then just before you get a chance to figure out how you can gently let her know it's all been a well-meaning, but elaborate trick, she finds the truth out for herself.  

For my older daughter, it was really very, very devastating.  Without being too melodramatic, it may just have been the end of her innocence.  The year after she found out, she wanted little to do with Christmas.  She refused to take a photo with the mall Santa.  She was not interested in the tree.  She watched, but was cool about the claymation shows that typically make us all tear up.  She was either silent or sarcastic when we talked about Christmas magic with her little sister. 

The following year, she stood as her sister bonded with the mall Santa, and I got a nice photo out of it, but there was no talk about the Christmas magic.  

Fast forward to today.  As a teenager, she is fully aware that there is no Santa.  However, the kid once again loves Christmas.  She opens the Christmas storage bins and carefully unwraps the ornaments from their well-worn paper towels, that she is equally careful with.  She regales us with stories of each ornament she picked out.  She seems to remembers exactly what she was thinking when she originally chose each ornament.  She gets upset if we even entertain the idea of not following Nana's recipe for Santa's cookies.  She looks forward to the special lettering on "Santa's" gift (and will be really happy when she finds the gift card to Urban Outfitters this year).  

In the end, all the deceit that I felt perpetuating this Santa business was worth it.  As a teenager (and hopefully as an adult), the image of the generous old Caucasian guy in a red suit is gone, but what remains is many lovely family traditions and the magic of Christmas.  For all those concerned about allowing your kids to think Santa is real, I would say it is thoroughly worth it. 

We take turns choosing a theme for the tree each year.  It was my teenager's turn this year.  Her rule was only glass ornaments, but each person could choose 1-2 ornaments that didn't fit the theme if he/she really wanted them there.  I chose a cheap plastic Santa ornament that is hollow in the center.  I think it was originally one of those M&M's tube toppers.  Each year, I pluck a needle or two to place inside the ornament.  The hole in the bottom is covered with tape.  There are needles from the last...13 or so trees inside the cheapo plastic ornament.  It's all about the traditions we create.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Kabocha for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert

Kabocha is a perfect fall/winter pumpkin for cooking.  The slightly sweet and nutty taste along with the smooth texture and dry water content makes it a great substitution for any recipe that calls for pumpkin.  

Above: Kabocha (steamed and mashed) pecan waffles with maple syrup
Below: Irish oatmeal with sauteed kabocha, pecan, brown sugar, golden raisins and a drizzle of coconut milk.  Holy yumminess!

Below: a savory curried kabocha and pork for dinner.  Another favorite not pictured: a pureed soup of kabocha, sauteed leeks, ginger, some cream and parmesan.  

Below: a beautiful and just-sweet-enough Sankaya, or Thai coconut custard.  Recipe on Wai Sek - my Asian foods blog... and also soon to be published in Heirloom Gardener magazine.  

How could you use this versatile Asian winter squash in your own recipes?  

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